Makeover Valentine’s Day: A Heart Healthy Indulgence

A colleague of mine emailed me for this recipe today. She reminded me of (1) how delicious it is, (2) how interesting it sounds to skeptics (chocolate and avocado? Really!?) and (3) how good it is.  Did I mention how delicious it is?

This is one of those recipes that helps my clients make the emotional transition between feeling like eating healthier means taking every “bad” food out of your diet and depriving yourself, and having your cake (a healthier version of) and eating it too. The infamous Chocolate Mystery Pudding in a tart form is always a crowd pleaser…and they’ll never know what’s in it.

I should mention, on the nutrition education side, how good for you avocados are. First off, they have higher levels of potassium than bananas. So if you are having a muscle cramp, grab for an avocado or a banana (avocados aren’t as hard to digest for some). And while avocados are about 85% fat, that fat is nourishing, filling and helps to properly absorb various carotenoids (anti-oxidants, or anti-rusting agents). Avocado are also high in levels of vitamin B6, vitamin K and folate. Avocados are good for fighting inflammation, as well, due to their phytosterols omega-3 fatty acids, in the form of alpha-linolenic acid. More research is being done about the combinations of two of an avocados properties working together towards heart health. And in the same vein, if you are arthritic, make avocados a part of your life!

Chocolate Mystery Tart

pudding

Crust:

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup dates
  • a pinch of salt
  • a dash of pure vanilla extract

Toss everything into a food processor and combine until just before it turns into a nut butter. Spread the crust into a greased pie pan or tart tin (with false bottom) and bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees or until the crust turns golden brown.

Chocolate filling:

  • 2 large avocados
  • 2 Tbsp. real Grade B maple syrup, raw honey or coconut nectar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 3 Tbsp. coconut oil (gently melted)
  • 1 tsp. coconut aminos (or tamari or soy sauce)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Spread out in baked crust, put in fridge to set or enjoy filling as is. Top tart with hemp seeds (pictured above), cherries, banana or berries.

Happy Healthy Heart Day. Embrace your health.

Scrumptious Turkey Apple and Squash Winter Stew

Need lunch ideas? Make a large batch of something soup or stew-ish, and you have at least three lunches for the week (skipping days in between so you don’t get bored). My colleagues and I at Simple Family Health eat lunch together every Thursday (a habit created by my friend and colleague Dr. Jennifer Strider, and, embarrassingly, not something I was doing enough of: actually taking a break and eating lunch). It is a time to relax for an hour, check in with my colleagues and eat home-cooked, nourishing foods – we take turns cooking for one another.

I am on lunch duty this week, and wanted to make use of some of the odds and ends in the fridge, plus I had a sweet-salt taste profile I was trying to satisfy, paired with a craving for cinnamon and apples. Throw all of that together and you get this tasty Turkey Apple and Squash Winter Stew.

turkey apple stew

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil or ghee
  • A few hefty shakes of ground cloves, cinnamon, oregano, small shake of ground cumin
  • 1 large Fuji apple, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 heaping cup of butternut squash, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp coconut aminos (I don’t eat soy, so if you do, you can use liquid amines, soy sauce or tamari)
  • 3 cups of chicken or vegetables broth/stock (preferably homemade bone broth)
  • 3 handfuls of baby kale

Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil on medium low heat in a cast iron pot with a lid. Add salt, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, oregano, cumin and stir to coat.

When onions are translucent, add apples and butternut squash (if you don’t have squash, no worries. Just leave it out. I just wanted to use mine before it got moldy). Add in capers, vinegar, aminos, stock and stir. Bring to a boil.

When pot is boiling, add baby kale, turn heat off and cover lid for 15-20 minutes. Taste for flavor, add more sea salt and pepper if necessary. Serve and enjoy!

Makeover Mondays: Simple Sausage Soup

Winter means it’s cold (well, maybe not in the Bay Area), it gets dark earlier (I feel like I want to go to sleep at 3pm), and we make more wintery soups and stews. I attended the lecture of my colleague, Nikole Maxey, L.A.c two weekends ago at our Integrative Health Fair and she described how Chinese medicine teaches about nutrition, dampness and relating certain earth elements to emotions, internal organs, etc. Super fascinating topics of interest…that make perfect sense. For example, I am told it is better for my personally, my emotional well-being, my personality and digestive issues, or my “constitution”, to eat a lot of cooked foods, warming foods. This not only makes sense to me, but that is usually all that I crave. Cooked, warm, nourishing broths, soups and stews, even cooked fruits.

Here is a quick soup I made for friends, using really, really good sausage from Market Hall’s Marin Sun Farms meat counter.

Simple Sausage Soup

sausage soup

  • 2 handfuls small, brown Mushrooms, cut in half
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4-6 cups chicken or beef broth (I had homemade already in the freezer. Broth is super nourishing to just drink, too!) – buy low sodium if store bought
  • Fresh or dried oregano (I had fresh – I always love fresh whenever possible)
  • 3-5 really good sausage, cut into 1 inch chunks (I got Sweet Italian at Marin Sun Farms, but any kind you like will do!)
  • 5-8 leaves of kale, de-stemmed, diced into strips
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Ground black pepper

Sautee onion in olive oil in a soup pot on medium heat. Add salt, pepper, oregano, mushrooms and sausages, cook another couple of minutes until coated and mushrooms and sausages just start to cook and brown.

Pour broth over mixture, bring to a boil. Toss in kale, cover lid for 2-3 minutes, turn off heat and serve hot. Serve with rustic bread to dip, or just enjoy on its own. Super comforting!

Makeover Mondays: Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Scones

I felt like a scone yesterday. I hadn’t had a scone in…I don’t know when the last time I had a scone was. Scones are definitely thrown into the pile of terrible for you, guilty pleasure, treat foods, much like doughnuts. However, the concept can be used to make a tasty, protein rich version. Throw in a little play on the Nutella concept, and you have a scrumptious combination of tastes.

The base recipe for these scones can really be used to include any add in (chocolate chips, fruit, homemade jam, cheese and bacon, seeds and nuts, etc.). I have been a bit obsessed with (mostly) grain and gluten free breads and baked good lately and can’t wait to make Sarah Britton’s bread that will supposedly change my life (I have not doubt as many of her recipes and concepts already have).  : )  So this is a prelude to that experiment.

These scones are egg free, dairy free, gluten free, soy free (if you use chocolate with sunflower lecithin instead of soy lecithin, which is the most common emulsifier used in hard chocolate bars and such). I did not make this recipe up, but it was hard to find one without eggs or butter.

Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Scones (adapted from alexandrajamieson.com)

scones

  • 1 1/2 cups of almond flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut flour
  • 1/4 tsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 egg replacer (I used 1 tbsp of ground flax seeds paired with 3 tbsp of warm water)
  • 2 tbs of maple syrup or honey
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened milk of any kind (I used hemp and coconut)
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup at least 70% cocoa chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

In a large bowl, mix together the almond flour, coconut flour, sea salt, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg replacer, maple syrup, orange juice, zest, and milk.

Combine the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until blended together. If the dough seems too dry and isn’t sticking together, use another tablespoon or two of milk.

Add the hazelnuts and chocolate. With a large spoon or your fingers, scoop out evenly sized scones and place on baking sheet and gently press down to flatten to 1/2 in thick with palm.

Bake for 10 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Serve while chocolate is still soft and warm, and serve with favorite preserve or jam, if more sweet is needed. Yum!

Thank you to Alexandra Jamieson for providing such a friendly recipe. I can’t eat eggs whites, and dairy and gluten always hit me wrong. This was scrumptious and filling.

 

Makeover Mondays: A Chocolate Experiment

I have found that chocolate, in its most popular forms (bars and chips) makes me angry, irritable and makes my heart race. I think it’s either the theobromine, a chemical in cocoa, tea leaves and and cola (the kola nut), and paired with sugar often accompanying cocoa, it makes for trouble. Theobromine can have similar effects on people as caffeine, which I think is what happens to me – I get super irritable and jittery when I have any kind of caffeine.

I give myself breaks from chocolate (long breaks) often, but I love it. I joke that my love for chocolate is genetic. But, I feel so much better, in the longer term, when I don’t eat it often. Today I wanted to use the cocoa powder in the house to play around with a baked good – a chocolate cookie. I have also been eating a very restricted diet, just to see how my blood sugar stabilization evens out without certain heavy carbs. Some would say it’s a modified paleo diet, but I don’t love labels because they feel restrictive. Labels always make me feel like a bad person; if I tell myself I am going to do something restrictive, even for a limited time, putting a label on it seems to sabotage any hope of me actually getting anything done and establishing a new routine. Sound familiar!?

In this case, my love and I are thinking about trying to have kids soon, and I have been wanting to take my time to get my body in gear. We have been working with our naturopath, Dr. Jennifer Strider, working on some deficiencies of mine, and some questions we have about our health in general, ensuring our blood work is better than normal.

Thus the restrictive diet. Today’s recipe is a chocolate coconut paleo-ish cookie. Here goes!

cookie 1

  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 5 tbsp coconut palm sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 4 large eggs (or flax eggs = 4 tbsp ground flax seeds, plus one cup of water or coconut milk) + more if needed
  • OPTIONAL: 1/2 bag mini chocolate chips (I love Enjoy Life)
  • ALSO OPTIONAL: 1/2 cup hemp seeds (“hearts”)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together. Separately mix flax and water/milk together, and add coconut oil. Mix all together, adding chocolate chips and/or hemp hearts, optional. If the batter seems too dry and hard to mix, keeping adding coconut milk or water until the batter is easier to mix, and looks like brownie batter.

Drop spoonfuls of batter onto a cookie sheet, and mash down with a fork slightly (they won’t melt and spread out themselves). Bake for 15 minutes (no more). Enjoy with a glass of (coconut, almond or any other kind of) milk.

cookie 2

With hemp hearts, no chocolate chips this time.

 

Makeover Mondays: My Makeup Gets a Makeover

I remember when my mother took me to the Clinique counter at Nordstrom’s when I started taking an interest in make up (because other girls were wearing it). The “all natural” look that Clinique exhibits is still a far cry from how I look at make up these days. My thoughts have evolved from wearing make up for looks to wearing it for protection (at least 30 SPF on the face) to wearing it to nourish my skin and my body, topically – remember, you absorb much of what you put on your skin, so why not buy products that you could, essentially, eat? My husband has expressed his slight disappointment in me when I wear too much makeup, telling me I don’t really look like myself, while also telling me how beautiful I am without it (no, I do not take this for granted). This expression and almost permission to not wear it, paired with research and more knowledge around how many toxins and chemicals we not only put in but on our bodies, and I have broken free from my 15 year old make up routine and have found the perfect solution for me. I thought I would share it here.

When I started looking for new, cleaner products, I went for unscented, no parabens or other chemicals that recent studies consider unsafe, and may interfere with metabolism and overall health (not to mention the chemicals that we don’t yet  know are harmful). I started to use what I have learned about plastics and parabens, and links to hormone imbalance and cancers, when shopping for cosmetics. There is much to learn through ewg.org’s Skindeep site. And then there are the links that xenoestrogens have to metabolism and unhealthy weight gain.

Then I thought I would push it further. I started moisturizing with coconut oil (yep, the kind you cook with), washing my face with grainy raw honey and thought about making my own toothpaste (powder)  - I have yet to get to that one.  One aspect of looking for a better beauty and hygiene protocol is always the cost of trying different products. But low and behold, I was led to Sequioa Beauty through a networking meeting with a physical therapist. I got some samples, heard some enthusiastic testimonials and of course, it being local, I was sold on trying this stuff. And it is practically edible. My routine is as follows:

makeup 1

  • Wash face twice a day with Sequioa Purify and Release Cleanser
  • Dab problem areas and potential pimples with the Sequioa Anti-Inflammatory Serum
  • Apply Juice Beauty SPF 30 tinted concealer. I don’t plan on purchasing this once what I have runs out. It’s a bit too heavy.
  • Apply Juice Beauty powder if needed, for less shine.
  • I use brown eye pencil, brown mascara and shimmery brown eye shadow for special occasions, or when I have more time. I like eye shadows that last a long time.

Other:

  • Brush teeth with Sonicare electric toothbrush, Tea Tree Therapy toothpaste (but I wanna start making my own tooth powder)
  • Moisturize body after shower with raw coconut oil or Awakening skincare products (right now I have Hands)
  • For the lips, homemade chapstick from my friend Ilah Jarvis in Peppermint. I think it’s pretty easy to make!

Yes, Sequioa is a bit of an investment, but I use one pump of the cleanser and two to three drops of the serum everyday, so it lasts a long time. There is a slight scent, but it isn’t artificial and I rather enjoy it. Earthy but sweet.

 

Makeover Mondays: Lunch is Important

Just over two years ago, right before my love and I got married, I realized (in retrospect) that I was trying, as many people do, to look my most svelte and feel my strongest in a bit of an unhealthy way. I rarely ate lunch. I was good at breakfast, and scarfed a ton for dinner, but lunch got lost.

Often times we aren’t aware of how we aren’t taking care of ourselves. We can lose sight of the smaller, easier habits we can put into place easily, or just remind ourselves of. As kids, we didn’t forget to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner. Breaking for meals was obviously important for our parents to instill in us as kids. Meals were scheduled events that we were raised to take part in; if you are a functional parent at all, you ensure that the kids get breakfast within a short time of waking, eat lunch at lunch time (remember old fashioned lunch time? 12pm?) and eat dinner at least one to two hours before bed. We have let fall some of the most fundamental and simple habits. And we have replaced these simple, instinctual habits with complicated, expensive devices, plans, diets, pills or products that often times have side effects, aren’t sustainable and aren’t, well…fun or delicious. So, I raise my hand and confess. I lost sight of lunch. It is one of the things I have been working on over the past couple of months to get back and find again: making a balanced meal, sitting down and eating it for at least half an hour. What a concept!  : )

As your personal nutritionist, this is one area where I say, “Do as I say, not as I do…” Now, I will try to do as I say when it comes to lunch. So, for this weeks’ Makeover Mondays, I am making over lunch, or rather, I am making over the absence of lunch in my life to prioritize its presence. Maybe you should too!

Leftover Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks with Leftover Roasted Butternut Squash (for lunch). Easy – just reheat! 

Add other veggies such as celery or carrots to your slow cooker if mushrooms aren't your thing.

Add other veggies such as celery or carrots to your slow cooker if mushrooms aren’t your thing.

  • 2 lamb shanks: go to your local butcher (grass fed, organic)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large heaping handfuls brown mushrooms, chopped in half
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup bone or chicken broth (made mine from scratch)
  • 1/4 cup any cheap, dry red wine
  • Finely hopped fresh thyme and rosemary (about two branches each)
  • Unrefined sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Rub lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large, wide pan over medium-high heat. Add lamb to pan and cook until browned on all sides, turning often, about 5-7 minutes. Add onions, mushrooms, garlic and herbs to bottom of slow cooker. Place lamb on top of vegetables. Pour broth and wine over lamb. Set timer on slow cooker for 6 hours at on HIGH. If you remember, turn the shanks occasionally and spooning juices over the exposed meat over the course of cooking time.

Using tongs, transfer lamb to platter. Ladle juices over lamb and serve, allowing some extra juice to be poured over lamb into individual plates. Eat fresh, or reheat the next day for lunch, possibly with leftover baked butternut squash cubes with roasted pepitas (one of my favorite sides).

Wishing you peace this holiday season.

Makeover Mondays…on Tuesday: Soothing and Warm Pumpkin Smoothie

Yesterday got away from me – I was blessed with taking care of a friends’ little one while she labored with her second. She had a healthy baby boy! And I got to spend the day with one of my favorite kids. So, sorry for the delay, but here is another holiday concoction I made the other morning.

  • 1/2 coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened pumpkin
  • 2 drops vanilla liquid Stevia (or 1 tbsp raw honey)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 scoop hemp protein powder
  • 1 tbsp raw honey (optional)

Heat coconut milk and water on the stove until simmering. Place remaining ingredients into blender, add hot milk and water mixture, blend and serve hot. Yum!

Just Glowing With Health has a good cold version of this idea, as well. What is your favorite holiday hot beverage?

Makeover Mondays: Cranberry Persimmon Nut Muffins

I had an amazing cooking session with a client last week, and they expressed their love of a recipe that meant warmth and good memories for them. We made over a cranberry bread/muffin recipe together; the result was scrumptious! (who says you can’t make the recipe when you are missing one key component?). We didn’t have orange juice or zest that this recipe called for, so we used Fuyu persimmons that we pureed with a little water.  The look on my clients’ face was priceless when we tasted the finished product; I don’t need anything else for the holidays – that look was more than enough.

Enjoy this scrumptious recipe for dessert or breakfast. Paid it with one or two soft boiled eggs and your day will be off to a great start.

Holiday Cranberry Persimmon Nut Muffins

cranberry persimmon muffin

  • 2 cups almond meal (Bob’s Red Mill brand is good)
  • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar, but coconut sugar is a better option)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons real butter, melted
  • 2 ripe Fuyu persimmons, chopped
    • Plus 2 tbsp hot water
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecan, walnuts or both)
  • Optional – if you want your muffins a bit less moist, add 2 tablespoons of coconut flour. Without the coconut flour, they will be smoother. Your choice – try both!

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan or muffin tin.

Mix together almond meal, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Puree persimmons in blender with hot water. Stir in persimmon puree, butter and eggs. Mix until well blended. Stir in chopped cranberries and nuts.

Spread evenly in loaf pan or muffin tins. 

Bake for 55 minutes in loaf, 25 minutes in muffin tin or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes. Enjoy!

My Favorite Snacks You Can Make This Week

My top picks are as follows – easy to assemble, throw in your purse or backpack and eat on the go (although chewing and eating slowly sitting down is always important!).  And what makes up a good snacks? Some protein, healthy carbohydrate and fat content (fat and protein fill you up quick and give you sustained energy, rather than a quick sugar pick me up and crash from a cookie and coffee). Next time, reach for one of these:

snacks

  • Fresh fruit and nuts – the tried and true combination, ensuring you get protein, fat and carbs in your snack.

- Examples include: Banana with almond or sunflower seed butter, apple with nut/seed butter, orange with handful of nut (walnuts and almonds are my favorite)

  • 1/2 or 1 whole avocado with an array of fillings: cut avocado in half, and fill the pit bowl with any of the following:

- Fill avocado with your favorite salsa – salsa verde, chipotle, etc..
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper, squeeze of lemon juice (I love truffle salt).
- Mix together canned salmon or sardines with some curry and sea salt and pepper.
- Scoop out the avocado contents into a bowl and mash up with dollop of honey or pure maple syrup, mix with 1 tbsp cocoa powder , a dollop of coconut oil and splash of milk (any kind) and a pinch of sea salt – blend or mash well until combined.

  • Stuff 3-5 Medjool (my favorite) or any kind of date with goat cheese and walnuts
  • Any kind of nut/fruit/spice ball – play around with different combos. My favorite is honey, almond or sunflower seed butter and unsweetened coconut flakes, mixed in a bowl and rolled into balls. Keep in freezer indefinitely.
  • Blanched veggies (boil water, place vegetable of choice in water for 1-2 minutes, then place immediately into ice water). Pair with hummus or other topping or dip.
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers with any topping, dip or tapenade (suggestion: pulse basil, green olives, garlic, olive oil, sea salt and pepper in a food processor for a delicious tapenade).

What is your favorite snack?